Lupus Newbies: Wear a Hat!

It's the end of spring and the sun is high. If you're new to lupus and haven't already heard: wear a hat!

If you have lupus, the sun can be your enemy. But if you take care before you go out in the daylight, then maybe you can still be friends. In any case, any exposure to the sun should be considered and delt with carefully.

A wide-brimmed hat is a must but that's pretty easy to find. A little harder to come by are light-weight clothes that will also block the sun. Long sleeves are a must. Sunscreen is another must, but, for lupus, you really just need to keep the sun off. Period.

Beware of reflections! Water at a pool and sand at a beach are both reflective surfaces that can shine the sunlight back under your hat or umbrella.

FYI it's the UV light that is the problem. Both A and B UV are dangerous for lupus, and that includes from artificial sources -- like unshielded flourescent lights, (acrylic covers apparently suck out the UV), and the lights inside copy machines (keep those covers down!). 

The workings of this super-sensitivity to light in lupus are complex and quite complicated. A very short and simplified version is basically that exposure to sun causes reactions in your skin cells that can quite quickly excite your immune system into a full-blown systemic lupus flare.

In anyone's body, exposure to sunlight causes changes in skin cells, including chemical changes (tanning),  tissue burning, inflammation, and accelerated cell death. This cell death is a normal protective mechanism, but in lupus the processes involved in it set up a series of reactions that result in a systemic flare.

Any change in your body's tissue causes your immune system to react. In normal bodies, the immune system will moderate its reaction to appropriate levels -- you get a little stinging sunburn and that's that. With lupus, though, everything about sun exposure causes your immune system to go overboard.

As noted: all above is the simplified version. The actual process is far more complex. The only things to remember are that any amount of sun exposure can set it off,.and the reaction and flare can involve any or all of your entire body -- not just the parts that are exposed ot the sun.

 

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